Sword Art Online II – Episode 1

It’s time. IT’S TIME. IT’S TIME TIME TIME. Sword Art Online II has arrived, and I can finally watch this show at the same time as everybody else. No more constant spoilers, no more comments laughing about whatever I’m about to run into, no more one-way delicious tears. Sword Art Online is very clearly our form of Event Television, and thistime I’m actually going to be there at the starting line.

If you don’t follow my site, you may not be aware that I’ve actually been cataloging my journey through the first season over the past few months. I’ve done episodic writeups for all the episodes, with my final one containing abrief overview of the first season, which I found pretty aesthetically impressive but very narratively lacking. Or if you just enjoy the silly concept writeups, you can stick to Hardboiled Sword Art Online and Kirito, The Hand of God – yeah, things have gotten pretty weird these last few weeks. Either way, I’m excited to finally be watching SAO as it airs, and want to please ask anyone commenting to refrain from spoiling future stuff – it’d be nice to actually experience this show fresh for once.

So… yeah. New season of SAO, new game for Kirito to conquer, new love interest played by friggin’ Sawashiro Miyuki. I’m ready. You ready? YOU BETTER BE READY. GET HYPE, IT’S SWORD ART ONLINE.

Episode 1

0:10 – Yep, that’s the show I remember. Goddamn SAO is pretty

Sword Art Online

0:19 – So a cyberpunk world this time? Hopefully it ends up feeling more distinctive than Aincrad – though the backgrounds are often great, the worlds still generally felt like a missed opportunity compared to the more distinctive videogames out there

0:21 – Clearly a cool dude

0:47 – The intersection of silly player handles and the increasing visibility of players when it comes to esports is always pretty funny to me. There’s something karmically pleasing about hearing esports commentators breathlessly explain a new strategy developed by DANKxNUTS or whoever

1:38 – Spinning in circles around this guy does not make this meaningless exposition any more exciting, unfortunately. It’s a funny trick though

Sword Art Online

2:44 – Aw dang

3:04 – Reaaaaally hoping we don’t end up with another “MWAHAHA I SURE LOVE EVIL” villain this time. Alfheim’s mustache-twirling villain partially dragged the whole arc down with him

Granted, that itself was really a reflection of this author’s apparent Kirito-centric worldview, but still. Nuance!

3:14 – Okay maybe I was being a little too optimistic

3:24 – Guns on trees, guns in streams, guns every which way. Welcome to Gun World

Sword Art Online

3:51 – Asuna helpfully reminding us of the central theme of the first season. And if you don’t recall, the answer is “nothing, basically, as long as you have meaningful human experiences there.” The show didn’t really articulate this the best, but it’s definitely what it was pointing to

4:21 – Always a charmer. Kinda interested to see what, if anything, the author does with Kirito as a character at this point. His original flaw was ostensibly his antisocial nature, but that wasn’t really articulated by the show, and was eventually kind of discarded. In truth, Kirito is pretty much good at everything, but the author seems to sort of know “what stories are supposed to do” even if he can’t organically integrate those things into his storytelling, and so Kirito will probably have some new emotional journey to overcome this time

4:32 – Asuna has Kirito ever not worn black for even one day c’mon

5:17 – Well, uh, I guess this place will be important

Sword Art Online

6:09 – As with the first season, SAO remains really, really, really confident in how much the audience is supposed to be buying into its characters and gravitas. So it has a long sequence of basically nothing happening, because you’re supposed to already love just watching these characters do anything together

6:19 – But it does also remain pretty! SAO abuses the crap out of the magic hour. KyoAni are also big fans of doing this

6:26 – I WILL BECOME A GOD

6:46 – A pretty telling contrast in the difference between Kirito’s dream and Asuna’s dream

7:09 – Alright, they’re repeating this often enough that I guess it’s a thing

Sword Art Online

7:41 – Asuna plz this a scientific question your statement has no support

7:48 – Kirito your hand tastes way better in the real world

8:59 – So I guess this guy was in the OVA thing? I only finished the first season yesterday, so I never got to that

9:49 – Alright, good to know

10:38 – Kind of a grim little detail that he went that long without being noticed as absent from the real world

Sword Art Online

11:21 – Another pretty sharp dig at online addiction there. In light of the first season, I can’t imagine this show actually becoming critical of losing yourself in an online world, but these lines here definitely seem to be aiming in that direction

13:43 – It gets sillier every time they say it

13:44 – No Kirito stahp

14:20 – So I assume instead of directly frying your brain, it just overstimulates you with data or something? Man, this show is really selling me on the Oculus Rift!

14:43 – It’s a good thing they sought out Kirito’s expert opinion on the link between VR stimulation and the human nervous system. He has been reading a whole lot of tech forums lately

Sword Art Online

14:50 – Ooooh, nice! Some animator really went to work on this sequence

15:31 – One would hope

15:52 – WE’RE CLOSING THE CASE

16:16 – Damnit Kirito. You’re a loose cannon, but you’re the best officer we’ve got

16:23 – I don’t do that anymore, chief. I’m a family man

Sword Art Online

16:48 – Goddamnit man, I’m always good. It’s my only weakness

17:24 – I guess there’s no avoiding it, but damn, this episode sure is exposition-heavy

17:50 – That’s right Kirito. I will pay you Three

17:59 – Aw shit, those glasses. You know he’s serious now!

18:07 – Apple endorses brain-killing VR technology

Sword Art Online

18:27 – I love how this show keeps using a vague “America” as the True Evil behind VR technology. Crazyeyes Oberon also wanted to sell his technology to Evil Americans

18:31 – Please allow these floating cars and telephones to distract you from the exposition

19:02 – But Kirito, think of your dream! Think of Asuna!

19:13 – You don’t have to do this, Kirito!

Holy shit, I’ve become an SAO love interest. He really does have that magnetism!

20:11 – Alright, I guess we’ll go with that

Sword Art Online

21:01 – More prettiness

21:16 – And this is of course how we introduce the new love interest. Oh SAO

And Done

Dang, that was a really slow first episode. There was a fair amount of information to get through, and I suppose they tried to some extent to make it visually interesting, but yeah, not the most exciting introduction. And jeez, “DEATH GUN”? I suppose “Fairy King Oberon” is pretty ridiculous too, but yeah, that’s pretty on-the-nose.

So I guess we’ve got “Kirito hiding his One Last Mission from Asuna” drama, and this new girl’s drama, and the central Death Gun drama, and that seems like a fair amount to juggle at the moment. I’m guessing Kirito’s introduction to this world will be some kind of setpiece, so hopefully episode two rewards us for the slowness of that one. I mean, it’s hard not to improve on twenty straight minutes of introduction and exposition…

50 thoughts on “Sword Art Online II – Episode 1

  1. “I love how this show keeps using a vague “America” as the True Evil behind VR technology.”

    America is like the China of Japan. Does that make sense?

  2. 6:09 – As with the first season, SAO remains really, really, really confident in how much the audience is supposed to be buying into its characters and gravitas. So it has a long sequence of basically nothing happening, because you’re supposed to already love just watching these characters do anything together

    Most fans of the show actually do buy into that stuff. Loved in myself.

    I can finally watch this show at the same time as everybody else. No more constant spoilers, no more comments laughing about whatever I’m about to run into, no more one-way delicious tears

    There’s still Light Novel readers!

    • “That completely unregulated alternate reality program designed by a mass murderer that I released onto the internet is killing people? YOU DON’T SAY.”

  3. I don’t know. I found this episode to be fine, honestly. Even made me excited as the premise tickles my fancy.

    It now seems as if you’re trying to be smug about SAO, a far cry from your earlier posts. Yes, you made fun of the show then, but you also acknowledged what it did right. This just reads as if you’re trying to find ways to make fun of it. Perhaps this isn’t your intention and is just me reading into things, though.

    • I think it’s just you reading into it – I was actually trying to cut back this episode, and return to a “neutral” that’s informed by the first season’s choices, but not blaming this new season for them. But I think this was a pretty bad first episode – significantly worse than the first season’s. My counter-hypothesis would be that it’s a lot easier to read snarky stuff about something you like from a position of distance, as opposed to a position of just having enjoyed it yourself. I know that’s certainly true for me!

      • I watched the show with my brother who’s more tolerant of LN writing than you are, and when he read this over my shoulder he laughed. I mean, he laughed with you. So just based on random anecdotal evidence I don’t think this post is particular offensive to fan sensibilities.

  4. Death Gun (Snicker) appears only to target the pro players, ie, the man we saw die hadn’t even logged off for two days. He also mentioned something about ‘false victor’.

    Considering Kirito brutally attacked Sugou for abusing his power in-game and using virtual reality to make himself feel like a god, maybe Death Gun could become a parallel to Kirito himself?

    Probably not. Death Gun actually kills people, Kirito tortures them then grants them their life. Kirito will still thus be made out to appear justified in what he does without question.

    • Yeah, last season made me lose all hope that this show is actually willing to be critical of Kirito’s actions. I mainly gotta look at this from a writer-psychology standpoint now.

  5. Wee, didn’t expect a write up this early. I’m glad we can go through this together now!

    Is it just me or does the relation between Asuna and Kirito lack a bit of maturity (lacking the right word here) for how long they’ve been together now? Must be roughly 3 years they know each other and more than a year they were in a close relationship, too. And even if we ignore the glopping chapter 16.5, if was still heavily implied that they actually had sex. Yet they seem to be so shy towards one another. That said, hard to really judge sometimes with the lower amount of ‘display of affection’ in Japan.

    I think the premise of this season is really fricking stupid but oh well. I just hope the world building of that online game is going to be any good this time around. If we’re going to get a bunch of loosely defined mechanics and limits that are then thrown out by Kirito nonstop anyways… urgh.

    Introducing one of the more important female protagonists with that kind of shot… I’ll have a hard time believing people that this author’s writing has improved and matured much.

    • A) The mechanics are gonna be super loosely defined. This is because the anime cuts out all the explanations. There was already supposed to be a big infodump from Shinon (since that’s the first in-game scene). Suffice to say they are cleverly constructed to make Kirito look cool, which is very different from ignored to make Kirito look cool.

      B) The author did not write the male gaze shot. At worst, he probably described her clothes in more detail than he described government agent guy’s (Kirito’s clothes of course get loving attention, while skull-face gets the whole skull-face thing). The anime studio is in charge of the camera so blame them. Blame Reki for other stuff, like making Asuna’s only goal in life to be with Kirito forever.

      C) I feel like I’m constantly defending this show, but that frustrates me because I don’t like it that much either. People just complain about the wrong things, or attribute blame to the wrong people (the anime studio is also pretty bad: Suguha got the same camera-treatment). In summary, and addressed to the world at large, of course gun games will have swords. I have literally never played an FPS without a melee weapon. Please criticize intelligently.

    • Personally, I was just really glad to see a near-total lack of blushing and stammering going on between Kirito and Asuna. The fact that Asuna isn’t generally portrayed as a tsundere, and that both Kirito and Asuna are actually emotionally/romantically mature enough to hold hands in public (seriously, big deal in Japan!) without acting like it’s Most Embarrassing Thing Evar makes me quite happy.

    • Introducing one of the more important female protagonists with that kind of shot… I’ll have a hard time believing people that this author’s writing has improved and matured much.

      This was unfortunate, and one of the things that makes me sigh about the anime, especially in ALO.

      Unlike Mahouka, where whatever “Fan-service” is in the anime, it’s much more in the novels, isn’t the case for SAO. The author might create some situations, but the text never lavishes attention on people’s form, if it even describes them. Female Kirito’s first description is neutral. Sinon’s descriptions almost always focus on her hair and eyes.

      Here’s an example of one of the “sexiest” descriptions in the novels, which you put out of mind because it’s a couple of lines, but might just be an issue in the anime since it’s a set-piece:

      The large interior of the shop was full of various colored lights and noises that it was like an amusement park.The NPC clerks were all beautiful women scantily clad in large silver costumes and lavishing an innocent business smile, but what was shocking was what they were all holding and what was adorning every wall. Shining with a black light, they were all hand guns and machine guns and the like.

      It’s almost puritan. The fan-service is almost entirely anime-original.

      But in the end, the crotch shot was extremely disappointing. I agree. And certainly something that one can take issue with. Just not with the author, for this. When Sinon is introduced, you get nothing about what she looks like for quite some time.

      • I guess Reki learned from 16.5, after all. Unless there are other secret smut chapters in the future.

        Oh wait, that would require him not to focus on the latest haremette of the week.

        Is it better or worse in terms of doing a disservice to the haremette as a female character that a new-ish trend in harem leads (Kirito, Araragi) is for them to be aware of that they have a chosen girl, and the rest of them pining for him anyways? In one case, the girl is pining for a useless waste of space, but in the other, their character revolves around obsessing over unrequited love, so it’s advocating for less agency? In some ways, the latter seems more toxic, even while the harem lead tends to be better written than said useless wastes of space.

      • I don’t think it matters.

        In either case, a haremette can spend all her time thinking about the main character or she can be a character in her own right.

      • I don’t think it matters.

        Either way the issue is whether the haremette’s life is centred around obsessing over the main character.

    • Oh yeah, their relationship is grade school stuff, but that’s kind of a problem of most anime, not just Sword Art Online. It peddles this fake nostalgia of a pure high school romance that doesn’t actually exist.

  6. I feel like I can give the heavy exposition if this gets most of it out of the way quickly. I’d rather have it sooner rather than later, so while I agree that the first episode of season one was much better than season two’s, I’m not too bothered about that (yet). Of course, if the exposition ends up becoming A Thing and continually rears its ugly head to bog down the story, then I’ll be deeply unhappy – nobody wants another Mahouka. But I’m willing to keep an open mind on that for the time being and give things a couple of episodes to settle.

    • Yeah, I doubt it will continue to be this exposition-heavy. I think they’ve covered a lot of what we need to know at this point, and though I’m sure we’ll get another wave of it to explain stuff inside the game, that will hopefully be framed in a more interesting way. But I’m not at all worried this will be a Mahouka situation.

  7. Let us never forget that Kirito’s (and by extension, Reki) Batman-moniker of choice was “beater.” Death Gun is slightly less unfortunately implications.

    Hah, what is that dig at both Apple and Google Glass.

    Ah well, worst comes to worst I will resort to imagining that Love Interest is actually one of Miyuki’s other roles. The real question is, is not-Kanbaru wearing pantsu under her…wait, no, her character design just ruined that potential joke. 🙁

  8. I think that one of the biggest problems that people are going to encounter is their own shackling impression of season 1. Despite disliking everything about SAO after episode 3, I’ve put it past me, and viewed this debut as a start to a new series entirely. And you what? It worked. I enjoyed the episode, and remain optimistic for the rest. Yes, the story is still cheesy and somewhat simplistic, but it probably won’t be the hell-spawn that season 1 was.

    • I’d hope so! I’ve heard this season doesn’t have nearly the ugliness of Alfheim, so while I think this episode was very slow (and c’mon, friggin’ Death Gun), I’m open to enjoying a light adventure from here out.

  9. I have to question why the coroner didn’t do an in-depth analysis of the corpses when it began to look like a serial killing case. If It was a heart attack, caused by VR or not, there would be traces of whatever caused it in the body – from clogging in the heart area to foreign chemical traces indicating it was caused by someone. That said, if people in SAO-world acted like they would in ours, we wouldn’t get a story 🙂

      • Maybe. I suppose so far it is just two murders. The similar method still seems like a valid reason for a more in-depth body analysis, but I’m no expert on the formalities and requirements for that sort of thing.

      • It being a murder is pure speculation at this point. They went over how absurd and impossible the idea is in this episode.

    • Truth is, Death Gun really is a boy called Darkness Gayami. He received his eponymous in-game item as a random drop while playing – but in truth, it had been dropped by an e-Shinigami who, out of boredom, wanted to have fun with humans. Now he wants to use it to get the virtual world rid of the pro players who take the piss out of n00bs like they did with him when he was one!

  10. It was hard to keep a straight face with DESUU GAAN to be honest, but if got used to “Full Frontal” from Gundam Unicorn I suppose I eventually can get used to any name used in anime.

    Not a bad first episode. I always thought that SAO suffered from rushing through the story too much, specially the first half. It seems that they’re now going to take their sweet time and develop things slowly.

    Miyuki Sawashiro’s voice is as always pure honey to the ears.

    • I actually probably wouldn’t have recognized Miyuki Sawashiro in this role if I didn’t already know it was her. She seems to be taking a different tone for this one.

  11. Just gonna put this out there; Sinon isn’t considered a love interest (by most fans anyways), considering there seems to be a distinct lack of loving affection from her.

    • She does to a certain degree like Kirito after GGO, although isn’t that aggressive when she found out that he was dating Asuna.

    • Mechanically speaking she’s the “love interest heroine” in GGO. Presumably because the author couldn’t figure out how to write it any differently.

      • How would you compare it to the Mako-Raleigh dynamic in Pacific Rim? In PC, the canon is apparently platonic, but it’s pretty easy to imagine it as romantic. Is Sinon-Kirito similar?

      • Not a bad comparison.

        With Pacific Rim I automatically assumed that they were going to hook up, so I might have been reading into things that weren’t there. With GGO I knew that Kirito wasn’t going to hook up with Sinon so there would be no reason for me to read into it like that.

        Uhhh, I’m not really sure.

      • I think if you to turn the main heroine of Pacific Rim into a guy then it be come off as Top Gun gay.

        On the other hand, I think that if you were to turn Sinon into a guy then it would still come off as a romance.

  12. 6:09 – As with the first season, SAO remains really, really, really confident in how much the audience is supposed to be buying into its characters and gravitas. So it has a long sequence of basically nothing happening, because you’re supposed to already love just watching these characters do anything together

    Most fans of the show actually do buy into that stuff. Loved in myself.

    I agree with this wholeheartedly! Especially since I’ve read the LN and know that there isn’t a lot of romance in GGO, just seeing them getting all lovey-dovey was already a treat for me. Just a bit boring though that they just talked and did nothing.

  13. 11:21 – Another pretty sharp dig at online addiction there. In light of the first season, I can’t imagine this show actually becoming critical of losing yourself in an online world, but these lines here definitely seem to be aiming in that direction

    Actually, in the LN (please forgive me, I’m sure you have heard the phrase very often. I myself somewhat loath the phrase) it is explained that the full-stomach effect of eating foods in VR world retains to the real world. This is actually a pretty interesting as previously, it has been shown that mind-control using the stronger hardware NervGear have only about the same impact as a dreams. The biological implications is interesting. But of course, this is SAO so we can’t have nice things that isn’t visual and audio aesthetic.

    14:20 – So I assume instead of directly frying your brain, it just overstimulates you with data or something? Man, this show is really selling me on the Oculus Rift!

    Something like the Pokemon seizure-inducing episode, our dear old friend “in the LN” elaborated.

    17:50 – That’s right Kirito. I will pay you Three

    This more looks like the finger gesture for Eight, meaning Eight zeroes. 100,000,000 Yen is a pretty big sum that even I would re-think my decision in avoiding getting shot by a possibly death-inducing bullet.

    In my opinion, the show should have really just use an in-media res start where it starts right in the middle of the Ballets of Ballets (snickers) tournament fighting against DESU GAN. Would that help the quality of the pilot episode?

    • In my opinion, the show should have really just use an in-media res start where it starts right in the middle of the Ballets of Ballets (snickers) tournament fighting against DESU GAN. Would that help the quality of the pilot episode?

      If this was the first season, they would probably do that. However, since this is the second season of a popular anime they can get away with having a low action pilot episode.

    • That full-stomach thing is interesting, though also not really necessary. Enough people die of endless gaming sessions in the real world that I wouldn’t have difficulty believing a much more immersive system would exacerbate the issue.

      • This is also part of the reason the two deaths in this episode aren’t even suspected as murders. It’s just two more guys who never logged out, and died for it. Some of the narration in the books indicated that this wasn’t unheard of, and happened with a lot of game addicts who forgot to eat in the real world, because they eat up in the game world. (Alternatively, this is also used for dieting purposes)

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